Preserving your research

Okay, so I realize that this blog post is almost a week late, but I figured better late than never, right?  So, this is in response to last week’s question, how to best ensure your research reaches future generations, in light of the digital age.


This question sort of reminds me of what I blogged about the week when we got to choose our own topic- I discussed how to make your research relevant and ensure that it made it’s way into the public consciousness.
In a way this questions is the extension of that blog entry, but instead of it being immediate, the question is how make sure future generations will benefit from my research labour.

Obviously, there is no doubt that research/discourse in a particular area can shift quickly. After all, it wasn’t so long ago (in the grand scheme of things) that Freud was considered legitimate. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile preserving knowledge from the past, at the very least so we don’t repeat our mistakes in the future.

When I was six I attended my Dad’s high school reunion. This was an big deal because his class had buried a time capsule which they were going to dig up for this occasion. I have often thought since then, what a time capsule might need to include… like if you were to bury DVD with either video or other information on it would you have to bury a laptop computer with the DVDs in order to access that information? And what about power? Would you have to bury the laptop with an energy source? Or at the very least a fully charged battery? The power sources of the distant future are unlikely to be compatible with technology from 2013.

All of these considerations lead me to believe that the best way you can ensure that your work makes it into the future is to have hard copies, on paper. I realize that this goes against the point of the blog post, which is how to preserve your research materials in light of the digital era, but I firmly believe that paper is the best way. Of course, it helps to have multiple copies of your research and to preserve it in different ways: scan it, deposit it into an institutional repository, if it’s published as a book send it to the Library of Congress. Depending on what sort of copyright you want to enforce, put it on the internet, encode it in the metadata of cat videos. But it is likely people will still be reading English 500 years from now, but I think it is unlikely that every blog from 2013 will still exist. As for confidentiality/ethics, I imagine that you’d only be sending the conclusions of your research to the far future. The details of those that you studied would be kept in an appropriately encrypted computer file, or in a locked filing cabinet, until such as time that it was appropriate to destroy it.

As a shameless plug for something else I’m working on, I want to point out that there might be some value in forgetting, as examined in this podcast by some iSchool students in another class I’m taking at the moment: I encourage you to listen to it, as this podcast successfully merges entertainment and information.




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